I started my career as an analyst in 2001, and one of the first reports I wrote was on the topic of “unified communications,” or UC as it’s more commonly called today. The concept is pretty simple: Workers use lots of communications tools, so why not bring them together into a single, easy-to-use tool? Makes sense, doesn’t it?
However, a funny thing has happened over the past 15 years. In an effort to give workers more functionality, many specialty UC vendors popped up. I understand the term “specialty UC” is somewhat of an oxymoron, but this is the state of the industry because we now have UC vendors for video, web conferencing, chat, audio conferencing, VoIP, document sharing, file storage and the list goes on.
The majority of these tools provide other capabilities, so they can, in fact, be thought of as “unified” but most workers need to use a large number of UC tools to collaborate effectively.
My research shows that the average number of UC applications used on a per-worker basis is somewhere between five and seven, although I’ve seen other studies that have this number slightly higher or lower. In practicality, the real number itself doesn’t matter as much as recognizing the problem. Workers are actually becoming less productive because they spend too much time managing communication tools.
RingCentral announces RingCentral Office
This week, slightly ahead of the Enterprise Connect show, RingCentral announced the next generation of its flagship product, RingCentral Office. The company calls this “collaborative communications” to differentiate it from the multitude of UC vendors that exist today.
RingCentral was the first UCaaS (unified communication as a service) provider to jump into the Workstream Communication and Collaboration (WCC) market when it acquired Glip, and it’s now putting that asset to good use. To date, RingCentral has been selling Glip as part of Office, but it runs as a separate application.
This new version has a completely revamped user interface that is built on the Glip experience with tight integration between WCC and UC. RingCentral customers now have a single, unified application that can be used for team messaging, audio, video, fax, SMS, collaboration and conferencing on a desktop, tablet or mobile phone.
RingCentral has also expanded its open platform to include team messaging APIs, chatbots and AI support so developers can embed messaging and other features directly into business applications and workflows. As part of the launch, RingCentral offers more than 40 out-of-the-box integrations with business applications such as Salesforce, Zoho, Marketo, ServiceNow, Confluence and Cloze.
Ring Central will make the latest release of Office available next month in limited release.
RingCentral expands into 13 European countries
This week, RingCentral also announced it was expanding into 13 European countries. RingCentral is currently available in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. with support for users in 30 other countries. And now it can offer localized services in the following 13 countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Norway, Spain and Switzerland. The UCaaS market has seen most of its growth in the U.S., but European businesses are more interested in buying communications from the cloud now, so RingCentral’s expansion should hit the market at the right time.
One last new feature from the company is a set of analytic tools for IT and contract center administrators. The dashboard shows things such as quality scores across the different parts of infrastructure and endpoints, making problem solving much faster. What RingCentral offers now is more reporting than actual analytics, but the company does have plans to expand into that area.
Customer demand for UCaaS services has been high, so all of the cloud communication providers have enjoyed a “rising tide.” Now that the market is maturing, simply riding the wave won’t be good enough, and the industry is starting to see each of the UCaaS vendors develop new services to differentiate itself from its peers. RingCentral’s new Office should be a catalyst for continued growth, as customers can consolidate down the number of UC tools they use, making it easier and faster to collaborate.